Pilot Steve Dean gestures thumbs up to the crowd as he taxis his T-6 trainer aircraft during Air Fiesta on Saturday, Mar. 09, 2013 at the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport in Brownsville, Texas. Paul Chouy / The Brownsville Herald - Photo by Paul Chouy
Air Fiesta 2013, scheduled for the weekend of March 9-10 at the Brownsville (Texas) South Padre Island International Airport, falls on an important milestone in the history of air shows in the Rio Grande Valley. March 10 will mark 50 years to the day that the Confederate Air Force, in those days a rag-tag band of “warbird” enthusiasts based in Mercedes, held its first air show at Old Rebel Field, formerly Central Valley Airport.
“It created the largest traffic jam in Valley history to that point,” Air Fiesta Chairman David Hughston said. “In fact, they had to turn people away, which is unheard of in the air show business.”
The air show and eventually CAF’s headquarters were moved to Harlingen’s freshly decommissioned air force base, now Valley International Airport. In 1990, the CAF moved its headquarters to Midland. The Rio Grande Valley Wing was relocated to Brownsville. In 2004, the group changed its name to the Commemorative Air Force.
For the complete story by Steve Clark of The Brownsville Herald, click here.
A medal of honor ceremony was held Saturday at Gladewater Memorial Cemetery to posthumously honor U.S. Army Master Sgt. Travis E. Watkins.
The event coincided with National Medal of Honor Day, which was Sunday, said James T. Gill, president of the East Texas Korean War Veterans Association. In 2007, a resolution was approved by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush establishing National Medal of Honor Day.
Gill decided the grave of Korean War Medal of Honor recipient Watkins should be honored. In 2008, the East Texas Korean War Veterans Association in Tyler held the first ceremony to posthumously honor Watkins.
Each year since then, the community comes together on the Saturday that falls closest to the national day to honor Watkins.
Watkins, who was killed Sept. 3, 1950, received the Medal of Honor in 1951, posthumously for his service in Korea.
Born Sept. 5, 1920, in Waldo, Ark., Watkins moved to East Texas with his family when he was young. He attended school in Troup and joined the U.S. Army in 1939.
During World War II, Watkins fought at Guadalcanal and earned the Bronze Star for his bravery. After the war, Watkins returned to East Texas. He married Madie Sue Barnett in 1948.
In 1950, Watkins served in the Korean War as a master sergeant in Company H of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. He was stationed near Yongsan, Korea, according to his Medal of Honor citation.
On Sept. 1, 1950, a major assault by North Korean troops cut off Watkins and 30 soldiers from their unit. Surrounded by enemy soldiers, Watkins established a perimeter of defense, according to his Medal citation. The group moved from foxhole to foxhole with Watkins giving instructions and encouraging his men.
When the need for ammunition and gunfire became critical, Watkins shot two enemy soldiers about 50 yards outside his perimeter of defense and took their weapons. In the process, Watkins was shot and wounded by three soldiers.
Watkins shot the three men and took their weapons also. He then returned to his troops, according to the Medal citation.
During a later assault, six enemy soldiers threw grenades into Watkins ’ perimeter. Watkins left his foxhole and killed the soldiers; however, he again was wounded. The wound left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Watkins continued to encourage his men and refused all food, saving it for his comrades.
According to the citation, “When it became apparent that help would not arrive in time to hold the position (he) ordered his men to escape to friendly lines. Refusing evacuation as his hopeless condition would burden his comrades, he remained in his position and cheerfully wished them luck. Through his aggressive leadership and intrepid actions, this small force destroyed nearly 500 of the enemy before abandoning their position.”
Watkins died two days before his 30th birthday.
2013 Medal of Honor Ceremony will be held Saturday, March 23 at noon.
Students Flock To Airport for Aviation Days Open House
AS FOTPAM PREPARES FOR SPRING 2013 EVENTS, WE LIKE TO REMINISCE
Thursday June 4th 2009, for the third successive year; New Diana, TX ISD 5th grade teachers brought their classes to Fox Stephens Field in Gilmer for an educational field trip to the Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum.
Steve Dean Museum Director welcomed the students and gave an Introduction To Aviation briefing. The classes had a wonderful visit at the airport, getting a first hand look at several unique aircraft.
The 75 5th graders divided up into three groups as local pilot-volunteers gave individual briefings for their unique aircraft.
Anson Young hosted the T-6 Texan;
Jessie Walker the Cessna 150 Trainer;
Jerry Forcher the Cessna 0-2 FAC,
Dr. Larry Jack Richardson the Cessna L-19 Birddog FAC, and
Jesse Loffer the GlasAir IV decorated in USAF Thunderbird livery.
The three military vehicles in the Museum Motor Pool....the CJ-10A Tug, the MB Willys Jeep, and the M54 Kaiser/Jeep Cargo Truck..... served as a backdrop for the "Class Photo".
The kids were thrilled when Ms. Becky Rice, the teacher who organized the outing, took a high speed demonstration flight with Jesse Loffer, flying over the field numerous times at speeds approaching 250 mph.